Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Will Hell's torment last forever?

Tormented Figure, Baltimore, MD
Tormented Figure, Baltimore, MD (Grufnik)
(Part of a series on death and the hereafter)

Annihilation is the teaching that Hell will eventually burn out, and therefore, its inhabitants will not suffer forever. Those holding to annihilation are General Baptists (1660), Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the well-known evangelical scholar and commentator John Stott. Extinction is the idea that those who reject God cease to exist at death. Scripture, however, teaches the soul’s survival after death (Luke 16:19-31; Num. 16:30; Rev. 14:9-11)

Why would sinners be eternally kept in existence to suffer?  At issue is
the punishment due sin. Unfortunately, we see the nature and horror of sin from a human point of view and not God’s point of view and. The ideas of annihilation and extinction are actually offensive to God’s character and justice.

Look at the deep sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God’s redemptive love for the world was infinitely expressed in His gift of His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 4:9-10). He made a way for us where there was no way (Rom 3:26; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Cor 2:8). If he arbitrarily released sinners from their penal obligation without trusting Christ, then he would violate his own character and the integrity of his justice. If we have offended an infinitely holy God with our sin, then should we not expect an infinitely lasting punishment? The penalty for sin was that the Infinite God-Man die for us. How can we think that the penalty for sin would be anything less than infinite?

Hell is not mere unconsciousness. It is not temporal. It is eternal torment. Perhaps that is why Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven and spent great effort warning people not to go there. After all, if people just stopped existing, why warn them? If hell were temporal, they'd get out in a while. But if Hell were eternal and conscious, then his warning is strong. Jesus was clear that Hell’s punishment lasts forever (Matt. 25:46; Rev 14:9-11; 19:3), so how could we call him Lord and disagree with him on such an important topic? 

Will the torment of Hell ever end? No. Revelation 20:10 says the devil and his accomplices will be tormented there day and night forever and ever (Jude 13; Luke 16:23). Some believe that those who go to hell will experience annihilation and extinction.